Der wöchentliche Presserückblick der Schweizer Botschaft in der VR China
The Weekly Press Review of the Swiss Embassy in the People's Republic of China
La revue de presse hebdomadaire de l'Ambassade de Suisse en RP de Chine
  27-31.3.2017, No. 665  
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China's Tibetan delegation pays official visit to Switzerland (Xinhua)
A National People's Congress (NPC) delegation of legislators from southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region Tuesday night arrived in Zurich and kicked off an official visit to Switzerland after a 4-day visit in Britain. The delegation, headed by Padma Choling, who is also a senior member of China's NPC Standing Committee, aims to introduce the latest information regarding Tibet's social and economic development, environmental protection, as well as cultural inheritance. The delegation will meet Swiss media and local inhabitants from Tibet and will head to the Swiss capital city of Bern to meet officials from the parliament and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. ^ top ^


Foreign Policy

Trump sees 'very difficult' meeting with Xi Jinping (SCMP)
President Donald Trump is predicting “a very difficult” meeting next week with Chinese President Xi Jinping, citing trade deficits and lost jobs. Hours after both governments announced an April 6-7 summit between the economic powerhouses in Florida, Trump sought to set expectations by tweeting: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang gave no details of the agenda, but spoke of the need to see the big picture while fostering mutual interests in trade relations. “The market dictates that interests between our two countries are structured so that you will always have me and I will always have you,” he told a regular briefing. “Both sides should work together to make the cake of mutual interest bigger and not simply seek fairer distribution,” he said. Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said earlier Thursday that the meeting is a chance for the leaders to build a relationship. Relations between the US and China have been uncertain since Trump's election. Among other things, he has accused China of unfair trade practises and threatened to declare it a currency manipulator. The United States wants China to prove that it is really seeking to stop North Korea's nuclear testing with actions — and that's what Trump will be pressing Xi to do when they meet in Florida next week, US Ambassador Nikki Haley said Thursday. Haley said the Trump administration has “no patience” for the “cat and mouse situation” where North Korea provocations including banned nuclear and ballistic missile tests are met with UN Security Council resolutions that Pyongyang ignores. She said the US can't change the way North Korea thinks but “China can.” And that will be the focus of the president's meeting with Xi at his Florida resort. Haley's comments on North Korea reflect growing frustration in the Security Council and internationally at the failure of six UN sanctions resolutions to stop Pyongyang's nuclear and missile testing and the expansion of its nuclear programme. Tensions have escalated over North Korean moves to accelerate its weapons development. The North conducted two nuclear tests and 24 ballistic missile tests last year, deepening concern in Washington that it could soon develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the US mainland. “I know China wants to see North Korea stop with the testing,” the US ambassador said. “Prove it! Prove it! They need to prove with their actions that they want to see that stopped... and proving it can't just be stopping the coal intake but allowing it to go through other ways,” Haley said. “Proving it really is showing them through pressure that you are going to cut them off, and that you take this as seriously as the rest of the world does,” Haley said. China is North Korea's most important source of diplomatic support and economic assistance and has long urged a resumption of six-nation denuclearization talks on hold since North Korea withdrew from them in 2009. Beijing says its leverage over Pyongyang is limited. Despite that, China last month suspended imports of North Korean coal for the rest of the year, depriving Kim Jong Un's regime of a crucial source of foreign currency though Haley's comments indicate that Beijing is allowing imports in other ways. Haley said she expects Trump and Xi to “talk very much about the responsibility that we believe China has — the fact that we don't have the patience to sit here and see it go round and round anymore and the fact that that we want action.” She said she expects them to discuss “how that action can come about, and discuss what level of action president Trump thinks it should be.” ^ top ^

President Xi's Finland trip offers Arctic opportunities (Global Times)
President Xi Jinping's state visit to Finland will be a great opportunity for China to participate in Arctic affairs as both sides have high complementarities in trade and economic cooperation, Chinese experts said. "At the invitation of Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and US President Donald Trump, President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit from April 4 to 6, and meet with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago, Florida from April 6 to 7," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said at a daily press briefing on Thursday. Finnish media reported last week that Xi's visit is related to the 100th anniversary of Finnish independence this year. "In history, there's never been any dispute or trouble between China and Finland. The Sino-Finnish relationship is the model of state-to-state relations with friendly cooperation," said Su Ge, former Chinese ambassador to Iceland. Xi's upcoming visit to Finland "shows the importance China attaches to a future-oriented new type of partnership with Finland, and support for the EU," the spokesperson added. "Finland is a country with rich forest resources, and areas like high-technology, innovation, and environmental protection are also Finland's advantages," said Chen Mingming, the former Chinese ambassador to Sweden, adding that both sides are highly complementary in trade and economic cooperation. The Sino-Finland relationship has new opportunities from the One Belt and One Road initiative, and northern Europe benefits from its proximity to the Arctic, Chen said. "The Arctic is not like Antarctica, which is open for every country in the world. If other countries want to participate in the exploration and development of the Arctic, they have to cooperate with the countries surrounding it, and countries in northern Europe, including Finland, are ideal partners for China to find the path to the Arctic," he noted. The only way for non-Arctic countries to participate in Arctic affairs is through the Arctic Council. The council is an intergovernmental forum that addresses issues faced by Arctic states and its indigenous people, and only states with territory in the Arctic can be members. The Council consists of eight members: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the US. China became an observer in 2013. China's cooperation with the members of the Arctic Council will absolutely respect their sovereignty. China has already participated in the Finland-initiated project to build undersea cables in the Arctic, to establish a new information superhighway to link Asia and Europe, Chen said. According to news site, a 2016 report by former Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen identified Russia, China, Japan and Norway as key countries for the ambitious cable-laying project, which was deemed "politically and technologically viable." According to Lipponen's vision, the undersea section of the cable would stretch around 10,500 kilometers from Japan and China to the Kola Peninsula in Russia and Kirkenes, Norway. Xi and Niinisto have built a relationship since 2010. In March 2010, then Vice President Xi visited Helsinki and met with Niinisto who was speaker of the Parliament of Finland at that time. In 2012, Niinisto was elected president, and in April 2013, he visited China and attended the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference along with his wife Jenni Haukio. Xi's visit to Finland will be his first trip to a European Union member state this year, and also Xi's first visit to northern Europe as president, Lu said. Xi is only the second Chinese president to visit Finland after Jiang Zemin, who paid the first presidential state visit from China to the Nordic country in 1995. ^ top ^

Family of Chinese man shot dead by police in Paris appeals for calm after violent protests (SCMP)
The family of a Chinese man shot dead by French police called for calm on Wednesday following two nights of violent protests over his killing. Liu Shaoyo was shot on Sunday by a police team that was called to his apartment in northeast Paris over a suspected domestic dispute. The police said the officer who fired the shots acted in self-defence after the 56-year-old father of five attacked another officer with a knife. His family has denied that version of events, saying the shooting, which drew an official complaint from China, was unprovoked and that the victim had been “trimming fish with a pair of scissors” when the police burst in. About 400 members of the Asian community and supporters of anti-racism groups protested for a second night on Tuesday outside a police station in the city's 19th district, chanting “police murderers” and “injustice”. Ten people were arrested for throwing projectiles at the police. On Monday night, 35 people were arrested for violent acts during a similar protest. At a press conference on Wednesday, the victim's eldest daughter said the family was still trying to come to terms with the killing. “We still do not understand why the police shot our father,” said the visibly distraught 26-year-old, who was flanked by her siblings. She did not give her name. The family's lawyer Francois Ormillien said the family had called the meeting “to launch an appeal for calm”. “We know this investigation has caused considerable turmoil,” he said. In a rare move reflecting the shock in China over the shooting, the government in Beijing said Tuesday it had filed an official complaint to France. China called on Paris to “guarantee the safety and legal rights and interests of Chinese citizens in France and to treat the reaction of Chinese people to this incident in a rational way”, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said. French Interior Minister Matthias Fekl said the police had his “full support”. The Chinese community in Paris is estimated at between 200,000 and 300,000. Many of the first-generation Chinese nationals who live in the French capital arrived in the 1980s and work in the textile industry. French police have repeatedly come under fire for alleged brutality during operations in poor parts of Paris and surrounding suburbs. In a case that caused widespread outrage, a black youth worker was hospitalised in February with severe anal injuries after being allegedly sodomised with a police baton. The incident in the gritty northern suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois triggered several nights of rioting on housing estates around the city. ^ top ^

First China-built carrier on target for April 23 launch (SCMP)
China's defence ministry has confirmed that the country's first locally built aircraft carrier has entered its final stage of construction before the hull is launched, which media reports suggest could be as early as April 23, the founding anniversary of the navy. “China's first home-built aircraft carrier is now being fitted out, everything is going very smoothly,” defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian said on Thursday when asked about the carrier's upcoming launch. “Regarding the news [about wether the ship will be launched in time for the navy's anniversary] I believe you won't have to wait too long.” Earlier this week, mainland media reported that the carrier, temporarily named the Type 001A, would be launched on April 23, the 68th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army Navy. Citing sources close to the navy, the South China Morning Post earlier this week reported that President Xi Jinping might attend the launch. The new carrier will be similar to the Liaoning, China's first carrier which was refurbished from the half-completed carrier Varyag that Beijing bought from Ukraine in 1998. It will also be equipped with a ski-jump take-off ramp. However, Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said the layout, equipment and overall operational concept of the Type 001A would be more advanced and functional than the Liaoning. According to Li, certain weapons were excluded from the Type 001A platform to allow the ship to park more J-15 fighter jets. The hangar was also being expanded to allow the new carrier to carry between six and eight more J-15s than the Liaoning. “The ongoing fit-out is preliminary to the carrier's launch. Other follow-up work will be carried out after the giant ship enters the water,” Li said. “It's a complicated and huge project to move such a huge hull from land to sea. “Many key weapons and pipelines will be installed after the launch, to prevent the equipment from being damaged while the ship is being moved.” Compared with the Liaoning, the Type 001A could carry more helicopters and fixed-wing early-warning aircraft, Li said. The country's most advanced S-band radars and four batteries of HQ-10 short-range air defence missiles with 24 tubes each would also deployed on the new ship, Li said. The HQ-10 missile system is mounted on the navy's most advanced Type 052D destroyers and Type 056 frigates, while the S-band radar system is capable of covering a 360-degree search field to scout dozens of targets in the air and at sea. ^ top ^

Putting extradition treaty on ice won't help anti-graft drive (Global Times)
The Australian government will drop a parliamentary vote to ratify an extradition treaty with China, signed by then prime minister John Howard 10 years ago. The vote was planned to take place two days after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to the country, during which both sides signed a slew of cooperation agreements. Although Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull believed that the treaty is "an important part of cooperation with China on law enforcement," opposition politicians made it clear they would not support it, citing reasons of possible mistreating corruption suspects and unfair trial. So far, China has concluded a total of 79 criminal judicial assistance treaties with nearly 60 countries, and has signed extradition treaties with 46 countries, according to figures from China's foreign ministry. If ratified, Australia will become another Western country to enter into an extradition agreement with China, after EU member states such as Spain and France. Those who are quick to decry China's system miss one point that corruption is a crime in the Chinese system as well as in other systems. China's objective of expanding its network of bilateral extradition treaties is to tighten the noose on corrupt officials. Under Operation Fox Hunt, China has stepped up requests for international cooperation in hunting down corruption suspects that fled overseas. The US, Canada and Australia are top destinations for crooked officials and executives of State-owned enterprises to seek harbor abroad, due to a lack of treaties and differences in the judicial system. We need to ask how these countries can help China to promote the rule of law if they continue to provide shelter for criminal suspects? A few years ago when China signed extradition pacts with Spain, Portugal and France amid concerns from the Western countries about China's death penalty, China guaranteed that suspects returned to China for trial would not face the death penalty. After the treaty with France took effect in 2015, Chinese police extradited three fugitives from France in two repatriations in 2016. The case also received media attention in Europe. So far, the US is still reluctant to sign an extradition treaty with China. Canada has agreed to negotiate one with China, after longstanding opposition. Now Australia has put the deal on ice. While they send a clear message to China that they want fairness and the rule of law, they should also avoid becoming good hiding places for Chinese criminals on the run. ^ top ^

China calls on US to honor climate commitments after Trump's rollback order (Global Times)
China Wednesday called on the US to honor its commitments to tackle climate change, after President Donald Trump moved to roll back American emissions targets set by his predecessor Barack Obama. "The Paris Agreement was hard-earned. All parties of the international community, including China, had a common consensus on it," foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told reporters at a regular press briefing. "All parties should conform to the historical trend of the time, seize the opportunity, honour their commitment, take practical and positive actions and implement the agreement." The comments came after Trump declared the end of a "war on coal" Tuesday, signing an order to review Obama's "job-killing" climate regulations. In a maiden trip to the Environmental Protection Agency, he ordered a review of emission limits for coal-fired power plants and eased restrictions on federal leasing for coal production. Trump said the measures herald "a new era in American energy and production and job creation." Environmentalists fear the steps may be a prelude to a US withdrawal from the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord and said the measures will make it difficult, if not impossible, for the US to meet its commitments under that agreement. Curbing emissions from coal-fired power plants was a pillar of America's commitment to cut carbon emissions by 26-28 percent by 2025. China "will honour its obligations 100 percent" regardless of whether other countries change their policies and "will not change its determination, its goals, and its measures regarding climate change", said Lu. China is a signatory to the Paris Accord, the first universal action plan for curbing global warming. The US and China are together responsible for some 40 percent of the world's emissions, so their participation in the agreement is crucial for its success. America's coal industry has long been in decline, with natural gas, cheap renewable energy, automation and tricky geology making the sooty fuel a less lucrative prospect. ^ top ^

China-ASEAN meet key to sea framework (Global Times)
The 20th ASEAN-China meeting aimed at boosting further discussions on the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) may bring the parties significantly closer to finalizing the framework of the Code of Conduct (COC), Chinese experts said. China is hosting a meeting with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Cambodia on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the preliminary agreement on the draft of a COC framework to ease tensions in the South China Sea. An insider close to ASEAN told the China Youth Daily that China and ASEAN countries have made significant progress in their consultations. The two-day meeting will "have substantial content," he said. "China has been pushing for the final draft of the COC framework since 2013. The situation in the South China Sea has visibly calmed down as a result of the joint efforts of China and the ASEAN countries, especially with Vietnam and the Philippines," Li Kaisheng, a research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. Whether the framework will ease the concerns of the parties involved depends on the draft. However, some cooperation mechanisms such as the mechanism on countries around the South China Sea could be added to enhance mutual trust, strengthen cooperation and share interests, said Li. Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin proposed the establishment of a cooperation mechanism on Saturday at a symposium on the South China Sea as part of the Boao Forum for Asia annual conference. According to Liu, the new mechanism would contribute to exchanges in such areas as disaster reduction and prevention, maritime rescue work, environmental protection, biodiversity, scientific research and navigation safety. "The biggest difference between the DOC and COC is that the latter is legally binding, which could effectively restrain the actions of claimant parties, and is necessary for maintaining stability in the South China Sea," said Gu Xiaosong, head of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies at the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences. Foreign Minister Wang Yi told a press conference earlier this month that the DOC is being fully implemented, and the parties concerned are returning to the right track of settling disputes through dialogue and consultations. China and ASEAN countries are advancing COC consultations on common regional rules, Wang said. Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying also said that China will strive to complete consultations on a draft COC framework by mid-2017 so long as there are no external disruptions. China and the Philippines agreed during the 20th round of Sino-Philippine diplomatic consultations last January to establish a bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China Sea issue, with the two foreign ministries as coordinators, to discuss issues of mutual concern and promote maritime cooperation and security. ^ top ^

China, Philippines to hold talks on maritime issues in May (Xinhua)
China and the Philippines will hold the first meeting of a bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China Sea issue in May, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Tuesday. "Currently, the two sides are maintaining friendly negotiations on the issue," Hua said at a regular press conference. During the 20th diplomatic consultation between the two countries in January, China and the Philippines agreed to set up a bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China Sea issue to discuss issues of common concern and foster maritime cooperation and security. China is willing to strengthen dialogue with the Philippines to properly manage and control divergences and advance maritime cooperation to create a favorable atmosphere for pragmatic cooperation as well as the sound and stable development of ties, said Hua. She said China has invited the delegation of the Philippine Coast Guard(PCG) to visit China at an early date. At the founding conference of the Joint Coast Guard Committee on Maritime Cooperation in February, the two sides drew up a list of cooperative programs in 2017, including high-level visits, vessel visits, maritime operations and related exercises and capacity building, said Hua. She said the cooperation between the coast guards will deepen mutual trust and friendship between the two sides, so as to inject new vitality into the development of ties. ^ top ^

Construction in Nansha islands "to better fulfill international obligation" (Xinhua)
China's construction in the Nansha islands is intended to provide more public goods and better fulfill its international obligation, a foreign ministry spokesperson said Tuesday in Beijing. Spokesperson Hua Chunying's remarks came after a U.S. think tank released a report on Monday claiming that China has nearly completed construction of an airfield in the South China Sea. "The Nansha islands are China's inherent territory," Hua said without verifying the accuracy of the report. China's construction on its own territory is to improve the living and working conditions for those stationed there and to better safeguard its sovereignty, she said, adding that the construction also aims to improve the civil function of those islands and provide more public goods to better fulfill China's international obligations. "Whether to deploy necessary defense facilities in its own territory is within China's sovereignty," she said in response to a question on whether China will deploy fighter jets there. ^ top ^

Trapped Australia-based academic fears long forced stay in China (SCMP)
An Australia-based professor barred from leaving China after a research trip said on Monday he was very concerned and did not know when he could leave. Feng Chongyi, an associate professor at the University of Technology Sydney, was stopped from boarding a flight to Sydney at Guangzhou's international airport on Friday morning. “I have no idea whatsoever when I can leave China. It seems I need to stay a couple of more days or even longer, I am not optimistic and very concerned,” Feng said. “I am very anxious to return to my work and normal life. “I am extremely grateful for all the support from all concerned parties who have extended warm support and solidarity,” Feng said, adding that he was in good physical and mental shape. Feng's case has again drawn attention to a national crackdown on human rights activists and lawyers since July 2015, known as the 709 crackdown. Feng, head of China studies at UTS for 11 years, arrived on the mainland about three weeks ago to research the crackdown. His lawyer, Chen Jinxue, said Feng was prevented from boarding an international flight in Guangzhou for a second time on Saturday for allegedly endangering national security. The academic is staying at a Guangzhou hotel and is being questioned at length daily by plainclothes national security personnel from Kunming, Yunnan province. “Judging by China's human rights conditions today, I am very concerned that Feng might be placed under arrest,” Chen said. “Technically he is not required to respond to the questioning but he is anxious to return to work in Australia... But it seems all the cooperation so far is not doing him any good.” Feng said that before he tried to board the flights, state security officers asked him to take lie-detector tests but he refused. Feng, 56, was born in Hainan province but his household registration is in Tianjin. He has been living in Australia for the past 25 years, and is an Australian permanent resident. He is well known for his research into contemporary politics, the growth of rights consciousness and democratic forces on the mainland. But Feng is not an Australian citizen and entered the mainland on his Chinese passport, which suggests that authorities could regard him as not entitled to Australian consular support. A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra said the Australian government was monitoring the case closely and had raised it with senior Chinese officials. “Under the Australia-China consular treaty, Australian officials can only provide consular assistance to Australian citizens who enter China on an Australian passport,” the spokesman said. In Beijing, foreign affairs ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she was not aware of the case, but had read media reports suggesting that Feng was a Chinese citizen and held a Chinese passport. ^ top ^

New Zealand signs B&R cooperation deal with China, first among Western developed countries (Xinhua)
New Zealand on Monday inked a cooperation agreement on the Belt and Road Initiative with China, becoming the first among Western developed countries. Visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and his New Zealand counterpart Bill English witnessed the signing of the document. ^ top ^

Boao forum ends with pro-globalization initiative (Xinhua)
An initiative on economic globalization was announced at the end of the annual conference of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) on Sunday in Hainan Province. The aim of the forum was to promote and deepen the economic exchange, coordination, and cooperation within Asia and between Asia and other parts of the world, according to the initiative. Addressing pressures on global growth and the increase in de-globalization and protectionism, the initiative asked Asian countries to stay committed to open markets, inclusive growth and economic cooperation. Rhetoric of de-globalization and protectionism are feared to disrupt global growth, which is under downward pressure, BFA Vice Chairman Zeng Peiyan said. De-globalization could create challenges for global growth instead of solve the underlying structural problems wrongly attributed to economic globalization, he added. The initiative called upon the world to actively adapt to the forces of economic globalization and reform global governance to solve problems arising amid globalization. Specific measures were proposed by BFA members through the initiative. Governments should make more efforts to reform and work together to strengthen international economic order and global governance systems, with policies to ensure benefits more widely shared. Protectionism has to be rejected. Trade and investment should be promoted to drive sustainable global development, with continued reform of multilateral mechanisms and governance. International and regional organizations such as the WTO and APEC should work towards a more open, inclusive, fair and equitable bilateral and multilateral trade system. Multilateral lenders, including the IMF and World Bank, were urged to improve supervision of global finance, supporting cross-border capital flows and working to lessen impacts on the real economy.P Innovation was highlighted in the initiative. Governments should use cross-border public private partnerships, a financing mode, to facilitate technological innovation and cross-border movement of knowledge and information. BFA members proposed an open mechanism for multilateral cooperation to ensure balance in globalization, calling for efforts from the G20, the APEC, governments and the private sector. Infrastructure and institutional and people-to-people connectivity should also be promoted. Zeng stressed Asia has always been a participant, beneficiary, and constructor of globalization. He hoped that proposals such as Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the Belt and Road Initiative and Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific will further promote economic globalization. ^ top ^


Domestic Policy

Chinese mother of man wrongfully executed over rape and murder gets 2.7m yuan payout (SCMP)
The mother of a 20-year-old man who was wrongly executed for rape and murder more than two decades ago will receive about 2.7 million yuan (US$391,000 or HK$3.04 million) in compensation, including a record 1.3 million yuan for emotional damages, local media reported. The amount is far less than the 13.9 million yuan demanded by the family of Nie Shubin. He was taken into custody shortly after police found the body of Kang Juhua in Shijiazhuang in Hebei province in 1994. Nie confessed during police questioning and was tried and executed the next year, at the age of 21. In December, the Supreme People's Court overturned the verdict, citing a lack of evidence and questions over the authenticity of his confession. Nie's mother, Zhang Huanzhi, said she would not appeal against the compensation award handed down by the province's highest court, according to Shanghai-based online news outlet The case has been widely considered one of the mainland's most notorious wrongful executions. Citizens and legal scholars alike said it exposed deep flaws in the criminal justice system. More than a decade after Nie was executed by gunshot, a man arrested for another crime, Wang Shujin, confessed to killing Kang. The lump sum paid by the government consists of 1.3 million yuan for emotional damage, 1.26 million yuan for his death and burial cost and 52,000 yuan for infringement of personal freedom. The sum also includes one-off financial aid to the victim's mother, which amounts 64,000 yuan. The family's demand for financial payment in relation to the rehabilitation of their name was denied, however, as the court deemed its public apology sufficient, reported. The compensation for emotional damage was the highest yet awarded in China to families of victims of a miscarriage of justice, the report said. The previous record was one million yuan, which was given to the parents of another young man named Huugjilt, who was also wrongly executed for rape and murder at the age of 18. Huugjilt was similarly convicted following a confession while in custody and executed shortly after in 1996. A serial murderer and rapist confessed years later to the crimes. ^ top ^

Chinese local governments admit to major cover-up of 2012 flood deaths (SCMP)
Two municipal governments in northeastern China have admitted that counties under their jurisdiction had covered up dozens of deaths during a flood nearly five years ago, marking a rare official admission of cover-up since Beijing admitted coverup in the early days of the Sars epidemic in 2003. Authorities of Liaoyang and Anshan, two prefectural level cities in Liaoning province, publicly admitted that the previously released death tolls were deliberately underreported, but did not provide updated numbers. The Liaoyang municipal government said in a statement on Wednesday that an initial report by one of of its counties that there had been no casualties in a flood in August 2012 was not true and there had been a “concealment”. State-run China National Radio reported on March 28 that at least seven people died or went missing in Liaoyang during the flood. The neighbouring Anshan government said in December 2016 that the initial report of five deaths in the same 2012 flood was an underestimation. But the Anshan government also did not give an updated toll. CNR reported on in December 2016 that at least 38 people died in the flood. Covering up death tolls from natural or man-made disasters was a common practice in the early days of communist rule in the mainland, and to this day the actual toll of how many people starved to death in the 1959-1961 famine following the Great Leap Forward movement remains controversial. The Chinese government has become more transparent about casualties, especially after the 2003 Sars epidemic. China sacked its then health minister Zhang Wenkang and Beijing mayor Meng Xuenong for covering up the outbreak. This new transparency, however, has not filtered down to the local level where officials still tend to underreport or cover up death tolls because their career prospects could be hampered by large numbers of casualties in natural disaster or accidents. When severe floods struck Xiuyan county in August 2012, county officials reported only five deaths and three missing. A post praising their “orderly disaster relief work” was published on the Anshan government website. Local villagers began petitioning state media in Beijing with their own, more extensive list of flood victims, including their names, ages, gender and addresses, according to the CNR report. Meanwhile, Zhao Lianhua, a villager from Liaoyang county told CNR that her husband was killed in the 2012 flood but the local government provided no assistance to her. The Liaoyang municipal government boasted of its disaster relief measures, reposting an article from the official Liaoning Daily in 2012, which said there were “no deaths, and no-one went missing”. “The well-prepared people in Liaoyang county created a miracle, ”the report added. Another report in the newspaper said Liaoyang had evacuated more than 50,000 people and rescued 37. “No one was killed or injured and property damage was minimised, so the first fight against the flood was successful,” the article said. In the short statements admitting covering up, neither Anshan nor Liaoyang named any officials, although both pledged to investigate and to hold those responsible accountable. The province of Liaoning is noted for other instances of official dishonesty. In September, the central government revealed details of an unprecedented election fraud that ground the operations of the provincial legislature to a halt and forced the dismissal of 45 national lawmakers. In January, the province confirmed long-standing suspicions that some of its economic data, including fiscal revenue, was faked between 2011 and 2014. ^ top ^

Xi hopes tree planting will flourish (China Daily)
President Xi Jinping called on the public on Wednesday to stick to the tradition of planting trees in spring amid the government's continuous efforts to build an ecological civilization. Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks while planting trees, together with other senior leaders and people including primary school students, in eastern Beijing. It is a Chinese tradition to plant trees when Qingming Festival (Tomb Sweeping Day, which falls on April 4 this year) draws near, Xi noted. Voluntary tree planting has significant meanings, he added, including to help the public cultivate a consciousness of ecological civilization and reach consensus on and join forces to building an ecological civilization. "We expect blue sky, white clouds, clean water and fresh air, which are all related to ecological construction. The people should live in green shade, and this is the target of our efforts," he said. The students should establish a sense of protecting the environment and cherish the green plants, Xi said. Ecological civilization was listed, along with economic, political, cultural and social progress, as one of the goals in the country's overall development plan at the 18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012. Mentioning that tree planting has progressed well in recent years, Xi called for continuous efforts to plant more trees to benefit the people. Officials of all levels should keep an eye on long-term rewards, plant trees in urban and rural areas alike, increase green areas and strengthen environmental protection, he said. ^ top ^

Google downplays speculation about mainland return (Global Times)
The latest update to Google's Translate mobile app extends the reach of Chinese mainland users beyond a Web-based version of the translation service, the US search giant said on Thursday, downplaying renewed speculation about its mainland comeback. "The Web-version of Google Translate has always been accessible in [the market], and now Google Translate has been updated to version 5.8 on Android and iOS, [which] is an extension of Google's translation service that has always been available to [Chinese mainland] users," Google told the Global Times on Thursday. A low-key update of Google's Translate mobile app on Wednesday seems to have beefed up anticipation that Google might return to the Chinese mainland after a withdrawal from the market in 2010. Finally the translation service has been made available without using a VPN, a user named "MXHJWAY" commented Wednesday on Apple's App Store. "Does this mean it plans to launch its [mainland] comeback?" The app comes across as being well-received, with many users speaking highly of its augmented reality feature, Word Lens, that enables instant translation of text out of a photo. The fresh speculation followed recent reports that Google Scholar will be the vanguard of the US search giant's much-speculated attempt to re-enter the Chinese mainland market. "The academic sector will be the first to get through," Liu Binjie, a lawmaker and former head of the General Administration of Press and Publication, was quoted as saying in a South China Morning Post article, speaking of Google's return. Analysts, however, are less optimistic about Google's mainland return in the foreseeable future. Google has pinned big hopes on China's domestic market and hopes to cultivate mainland user stickiness by efforts such as the availability of Google Translate on mobile devices, Zhao Ziming, an analyst with Analysys International, a Beijing-based Internet consultancy, told the Global Times. But this doesn't mean Google's search services are anywhere close to returning to the mainland, Zhao said. ^ top ^

China spends more than 22 bln yuan on science projects in 2016 (China Daily)
The Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) financed 41,184 programs in 2016, allocating 22.71 billion yuan (about 3.3 billion U.S. dollars). Funded programs included research on gravitational waves, said Yang Wei, head of the NSFC, who added that the foundation had also launched research projects into areas including coexisting-cooperative-cognitive robotics, and piloted basic science programs on craton damage and the evolution of land. The NSFC will focus on areas such as brain science, new materials, advanced manufacturing, quantum communication, robots, and information security, said the NSFC. The foundation also said it would encourage scientists to continue to push boundaries in research and development. According to Yang, the NSFC punished 91 people for misconduct and revoked 33 programs in 2016. The fund will help to improve the research integrity system, ensure fairness and promote innovation, he added. ^ top ^

Chongqing regulations may penalize VPN users (Global Times)
A regulation to punish unauthorized Internet connections outside China's Great Firewall was made public by Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality on Monday, calling into question the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) by individuals in the region. The regulation, which was issued to "strengthen China's rule of law and cyberspace security," was enacted in July, 2016 and will expire in July 2021. If an individual accesses international network privately or via "illegal channels," or offers related services without authorization, they could be fined up to 15,000 yuan ($2,178), according to the regulation of network inspection released on the Chongqing Municipal Public Security Bureau's website. Those who violate the regulation to make profits would be fined and their gains confiscated accordingly, said the regulation. First-time individuals caught breaking the regulations on a non-profit basis would be warned and banned from connecting to the network, the regulations explained. Those who profit up to 10,000 yuan from illegal Internet connections or break the regulation twice would be punished with fines ranging from 10,000 to 15,000 yuan, and their illegal assets would be forfeited. Basic telecommunication companies and Internet access service providers are barred from setting up or renting special lines (including VPNs) to carry out cross-border operations without approval, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology stated in January. ^ top ^

CPC Central Committee calls for institutionalized education campaign (Xinhua)
The Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee has said the ongoing education campaign on Party management should become an essential, obligatory part of Party building. According to a circular issued by the general office of the CPC Central Committee made public on Tuesday, the campaign was launched in 2016 and focuses on the study of the Party Constitution and code of conduct, as well as the speeches made by Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee. A series of remarks made by Xi are the latest achievements of the theoretical system of socialism with Chinese characteristics and they mark the latest development of contemporary Marxism in China, it said. The remarks are considered important thought for Party building and advancing the great cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics, it said, adding that they would also serve as guiding principles for all Party organizations and members. ^ top ^

Suspects in China's 'biggest baby milk scandal in decade' go on trial (SCMP)
A group of 12 people accused of making and selling fake branded baby milk powder in what could be the biggest milk formula scandal in a decade in China went on trial in Shanghai on Monday. The case was first brought to light by the government's food safety watchdog after complaints by the US-baby milk powder producer Abbott, which was a victim of the fakes. The case comes after the outcry in 2008 when at least six children died after some producers for the Sanlu Group were found to have added melamine to their products to make it look like watered-down milk was high in protein. The scandal shattered Chinese public confidence in domestic milk powder products and drove them to look for imported alternatives, including buying up supplies in Hong Kong. The group on trial in Shanghai, headed by Chen Mingjiang and Pan Xingbing who had years of experience in selling milk powder, are accused of buying low-grade milk powder and repackaging it as famous brands, according to the State Council's food safety office. They allegedly began to purchase lower-grade, domestically-produced products from Beingmate in 2014 and then repackaged them as more expensive products from the same firm. They started to blend cheap domestic and foreign milk powders in forged tins branded as produced by Abbott, the following year. A total of 12,000 cans of fake Abbott products were made. About 3,000 were not traced, the office said. The gang was busted by Shanghai police in September 2015 after Abbott reported the case to the authorities. The investigation attracted nationwide attention after China's food safety watchdog made it public at a press conference in April last year. An employee at the Shanghai court told the South China Morning Post many residents had applied to attend the hearing on Monday. The Shanghai Institute of Quality Inspection and Technical Research checked the fake branded milk powder for the police and found it was up to China's national baby milk powder standards and would not damage children's health. Producing and selling forged products if the sales turnover is over 2 million yuan (US$290,000) can lead to life imprisonment in serious cases, under Chinese law. ^ top ^



Beijing to launch lottery for prized school spots as home prices go through the roof (SCMP)
Beijing will introduce a lottery to allocate some primary school places in a bid to rein in rising prices for homes near coveted academic institutions, according to Chinese media. Most pupils in the capital are assigned to a school within their neighbourhood, and many parents have spent millions of yuan to buy a home in areas with elite schools, in the hopes the purchase will lead to a prized spot, driving up property prices. The new measure was aimed at “lowering parents' expectation that buying a property will lead to enrolment in a certain primary school to avoid excessive speculation on school district properties,” Beijing Youth Daily reported on Sunday, quoting an unidentified official with the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education. ' It was not immediately clear how many schools would be affected as the authorities have not released an official update to enrolment policy. Liu Yilian, a Dongcheng district real estate agent, said property prices in residential areas with top primary schools had risen from an average of 130,000 yuan (HK$146,760) to 150,000 yuan per square metre. Average prices in the Beijing secondary market had risen from 57,597 yuan to 61,326 yuan per square metre, according to online property site Xiong Bingqi, deputy dean of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, blamed poor distribution of educational resources for fostering speculation. “The government needs to balance education resources and better plan government funding among different districts and between schools in the same district to ensure schools are equally developed,” Xiong said. The move is among the latest measures by authorities to curb rising property prices. On Friday, Beijing moved to crack down on disingenuous divorces as a way to skirt restrictions on second-home purchases. On Sunday, authorities banned the sale of flats converted from commercial or office space – known as “lofts” or “hotel apartments”– to individual buyers. Between March 13-19, some 1,306 units of newly converted flats were sold in Beijing, up 57 per cent over the same period a month ago, according to Centaline Property. “If there is any doubt about the seriousness of the Beijing's government's home market controls, after Sunday it should stop,” said Yan Yuejin, a research director at the E-house China R&D Institute. Si Zhi, vice-president of Soufun Holding, which runs a property listing portal, said the policy was a heavy blow to some real estate developers. “A lot of apartment sellers began to withdraw their offers. We saw large quantities of delistings this morning,” Si said. ^ top ^



Tibet focuses on improving livelihoods (China Daily)
The Tibet autonomous region plans to spend 30 billion yuan ($4.3 billion) improving people's livelihoods this year, according to the region's financial department. The money will be used on 33 projects, including poverty alleviation, education, health and social welfare, Jiang Guojie, deputy head of the department, said at a recent meeting. According to the financial department, 8.8 billion yuan will be used on targeted poverty alleviation projects, including one that aims to relocate at least 160,000 people to more habitable locations, this year. By the end of 2017, the region expects to lift about 130,000 residents out of poverty, and the per capita disposable income of people in poverty is expected to increase by 16 percent, according to the region's 2017 Government Work Report. Another 6 billion yuan will be invested in the development of border areas of the autonomous region, while annual subsidies to residents in these border areas will also be raised by 1,000 yuan to between 2,500 and 2,700 yuan, Jiang said. Hu Hong, head of Gyirong county, one of the border areas, said the county's share of the fund, at about 500 million yuan, would be of great help to its development. The county, which borders Nepal, is now gearing up infrastructure construction for Gyirong Port's opening-up. "The money will fund projects for water, electricity, roads, communications, greening and public facilities, among others. We are taking this great opportunity to speed up infrastructure construction in frontier townships," Hu said. Apart from poverty alleviation and border area development, the 30 billion yuan will also be used to raise the minimum living allowances for low-income urban and rural residents, and attract more educational and medical professionals to work in Tibet, Jiang said. Starting this year, the minimum living allowance for rural residents has been raised from 2,550 yuan to 3,311 yuan a year, while that for urban residents has been raised from 640 yuan to 700 yuan each month. Jiang said that the region has continuously worked to solve problems that people are most concerned about, boost economic development and improve people's well-being. In the past four years, Tibet has earmarked 70 percent of its financial resources on livelihood sectors. Last year, nearly 80 percent of the finances were spent on improving people's livelihood, he added. ^ top ^



Ban on beards and veils – China's Xinjiang passes law to curb 'religious extremism' (SCMP)
China's Xinjiang region passed a law on Wednesday to curb religious extremism, amid the government's intensifying campaign against what it calls the rising threat of terrorism and separatism in the Uygur homeland. The law, which takes effect on Saturday, bans a wide range of acts including wearing veils or “abnormal” beards, without specifying the term. It will also be illegal to refuse to watch state television and listen to state radio, or prevent children from receiving national education – activities deemed “manifestations” of extremism, according to the official news website The regulation, passed by the Xinjiang legislature's standing committee, said special task forces to curb extremism would be set up at regional, prefectural and county governments and local leaders would be evaluated annually for their localities' achievements on the matter. Security and surveillance measures have been beefed up in recent months following reports of heightened violence in the region's rural south, including massive shows of force where thousands of heavily armed police paraded in a number of cities. Beijing blames Islamist militants and separatists for attacks in Xinjiang that have killed hundreds of people in recent years. Rights groups claim the conflicts were caused by the government's repression of religious freedom and unfair ethnic policies. The new law lists 15 types of comments or behaviour that the government views as extremism, covering a wide range of daily life. Among them: using religious instead of legal procedures to marry or divorce or meddling in other people's weddings, funerals and inheritance; interfering with or sabotaging the enforcement of family planning policies, and deliberately damaging national identity cards, household registration books or the currency. Applying the concept of Halal in non-food-related areas or using it to intervene in other people's secular lives is also considered an extremist act, according to the law. James Leibold, an expert on China's ethnic issues at La Trobe University in Australia, said the law was part of a broader trend aimed at legislating the government's existing practices in the region. Some local officials had been enforcing many of the law's restrictions for years, but adherence and enforcement had been patchy, Leibold said. “By creating a [region] wide regulation, the new regime of Xinjiang party secretary Chen Quanguo is seeking to strengthen [Communist Party] control and root out any acts of non-compliance,” he said. “In the process, however, many aspects of Uygur cultural and religious life are now being deemed 'abnormal' and 'manifestations' of extremism, and thus subject to punitive enforcement.” Leibold warned that forcefully imposing Han-defined norms on the Uygurs was likely to “increase their sense of cultural insecurity and thus ultimately undermine the party-state's attempts to create a more social cohesive and stable society in Xinjiang.” Since becoming Xinjiang's top official last August, Chen has rolled out a slew of security and surveillance measures he used in Tibet, where he ruled for five years prior to his current post. ^ top ^

Xinjiang rolls out China's first law to purge religious extremism (Xinhua)
Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has introduced China's first local regulation, which will come into effect on Saturday, to contain and eradicate extremism. The regulation clarifies major acts of extremism, proposes detailed measures to prevent, contain and purge them, and identifies responsibilities of government departments and the public. According to the regulation, 15 actions are categorized as extremism, including interfering with others' religious freedom, forcing others to participate in religious activities, driving believers of different religions away from their homes, expanding the concept of "halal" to areas other than food, wearing or forcing others to wear burqa-like robes, marriage or divorce through religious means rather than legal processes, and depriving children of the right to national education. The introduction of the regulation draws a clear line between legal religion and illegal religion, which provides legal support for protecting the former and purging the latter, said Chen Tong, president of the law school under Xinjiang Normal University. ^ top ^

Xinjiang to strengthen preschool bilingual education (Xinhua)
China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region will build more kindergartens and hire more bilingual teachers to improve its three-year bilingual pre-school education A total of 4,387 bilingual kindergartens will be built or expanded in 2017 across the region. And 10,000 bilingual teachers will be hired this year, 6,500 more compared with previous years, the regional education department announced Thursday. The region will also provide more training courses for bilingual teachers and encourage more college graduates to work as bilingual teachers. From 2011 to 2015, Xinjiang built 2,500 new bilingual kindergartens in rural areas, bringing the region's pre-school education penetration rate to 77 percent, or 480,000 pre-schoolers, according to official figures. With central government funds, Xinjiang plans to offer three years of bilingual pre-school education, instead of the current two, in the region's rural areas during the 2016-2020 period. ^ top ^

Xinjiang bares 11 cases of extremist, separatist content (Global Times)
Poblic security officials in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region released information on 11 new cases involving suspects who spread extremist, separatist and other illegal content online, as efforts to clean up cyberspace in the region continue. The regional public security bureau arrested 12 people between January and March, Xinjiang's cyberspace administration office announced via its WeChat account on Monday. The suspects allegedly spread information on terrorism, violence, religious extremism and separatism, as well as rumors, "fake news," insults and defamatory statements, the report said. Four of the 11 cases involved pro-terrorist content, two on religious extremism, two which allegedly spread "fake" reports on terrorism and one on an alleged hostile attack on government stabilization measures. Local authorities revealed similar cases in February. In February and March, most of the content involved terrorism and religious extremism. Anyone who uses cell phones, the Internet, mobile storage devices or other media to disseminate terrorist or extremist ideas will be charged with terror offenses, according to Xinjiang's anti-terrorism regulations, adopted in 2016. Xinjiang is expected to approve a regional cyber-security regulation as early as the end of March, Dong Xinguang, deputy director of the Standing Committee of the Xinjiang People's Congress, previously told the Global Times. ^ top ^

Xinjiang to send over 20,000 students from ethnic minorities to study in inland cities (China Daily)
Over 20,000 students in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, Northwest China, who identify as ethnic minorities, will be accepted onto courses at inland schools and universities this year. A total of 9,880 students from Xinjiang will go to study in inland high schools, 3,300 will attend inland vocational schools and 8,600 will study at inland universities, according to the Xinjiang inland student program office under the regional education department. Ethnic minority students have been awarded places at schools and universities in inland regions since 1989, in a program designed to offer gifted students a better quality education and, subsequently, greater opportunities. Statistics from the office show that more than 60,000 high school graduates in Xinjiang have been admitted by inland universities while more than 90,000 students from Xinjiang have been taught at inland high schools so far. Most of these students return to work in Xinjiang after graduation. ^ top ^



Occupy protester jailed for contempt of Hong Kong court over injunction violations (SCMP)
A key Occupy protester was jailed for three months on Thursday for defying a court injunction against blocking roads two-and-a-half years ago, marking the first such punishment meted out by Hong Kong's justice system against those who brought chaos to the city in the name of democracy. Alvin Cheng Kam-mun, a lawmaker's assistant, became the firstperson to be sentenced for criminal contempt of court over injunctions sought against participants of the 79-day road sit-ins in 2014. Waiter Au Yuk-kwan was fined HK$10,000 and given a suspended sentence of one month for the same offence. ' High Court judge Andrew Chan Hing-wai said a deterrent sentence was needed for large-scale and deliberate actions to defy court orders. This was to protect the rule of law, “which distinguishes civilised society from anarchy”, he said, quoting a Canadian judge in a previous case. “Your conduct does not embarrass this court; it challenges the very existence of it. “In the whole spectrum of conduct classified as contemptuous, there can be none more sinister or more threatening than that of organised, large-scale, deliberate defiance of an order of the court.” Yesterday's sentencing coincided with the first court appearance of nine, higher-profile Occupy leaders and activists facing a range of public nuisance charges in a separate case. The three Occupy founders – academics Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Dr Chan Kin-man, and the Reverend Chu Yiu-ming – as well as lawmakers, activists and former student leaders, turned up at Eastern Court, shouting in defiance. They are expected to return to the same court on May 25. In 2014, protesters paralysed parts of the city by blocking major roads in Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok to fight against the government's proposals to reform the city's election system under a rigid framework imposed by Beijing. Taxi and minibus driver groups complaining about the impact on their business successfully applied for a court injunction to get the protesters off Argyle Street in the popular shopping hub of Mong Kok. Cheng, Au and others were arrested on November 25, 2014. They were among dozens, including student leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung, accused of criminal contempt. But while others pleaded not guilty, Cheng and Au admitted their involvement. The two were initially arrested over a civil injunction, but later faced criminal contempt when the Department of Justice took over the proceedings. Judge Chan said Cheng should go to jail because of the little remorse he showed for arriving late and “toying with his mobile phone” during a previous court appearance. Waiter, jailed over Mong Kok riot, loses appeal against his conviction and sentence( He described Cheng's involvement as a “flagrant defiance of the injunction order”. Video footage showed a masked Cheng holding banners and a loudspeaker during the protest. “It can hardly be disputed that his involvement in the occupation, thus his conduct in contempt, was extensive and deep,” the judge said. He said Au was only present at the protest that particular day to show support for the Occupy movement. ^ top ^

Beijing agrees new Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam can run things her way (SCMP)
Hong Kong's newly elected leader announced on Wednesday that Beijing's representative branches would leave it to her to run her own administration and take the lead in bridging the city's political divide. Three days after being voted into her new job, chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor paid courtesy calls to Beijing's liaison office, the office of the foreign ministry, and the People's Liberation Army garrison. The meetings came a day after she said ministers in her administration would “be in charge of their own work”, rather than taking their cue from Beijing's representatives. Lam is under pressure to distance herself from outgoing chief executive Leung Chun-ying, who has long been accused of overreliance on the central government's input. Lam's critics were quick to contrast the duration of her meeting with liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming– 90 minutes – against her 30-minute chat with Legislative Councilpresident Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen on Monday, but she dismissed concerns about her focus. Lam said her meeting with Zhang took longer as she had to explain her election platform, especially her economic and financial policy plans. “Lots of proposals in my platform would need discussions with, and support from Beijing. It might not be necessary for me to do the same with the Legco president... but I have repeatedly said it is one of my first priorities to improve the executive branch's relationship with Legco,” she said. The official Xinhua news agency said Zhang had briefed her on the central government's arrangements for her appointment as chief executive. Lam cited Zhang as saying he was aware and supportive of her pledge that her cabinet would not rely on the liaison office's help to lobby politicians. “He agrees that it is the Hong Kong government's job to...lobby lawmakers to support its policy proposals. He agrees with my clarification.” While there has been concern at the liaison office's involvement in the chief executive election, including reports that Election Committee members were lobbied behind the scenes to vote for Lam, she dismissed suggestions that she was there to thank Zhang for ensuring her victory. “I did not especially thank them,” she said. “What I need to say thanks for is Election Committee members' endorsement and the recognition of the vast majority of Hong Kong residents.” Lam won the electionon Sunday by bagging 777 votes from the 1,194-member committee. Lam also visited Beijing's foreign ministry office for talks with acting commissioner Tong Xiaoling. She said that in her 45-minute discussion with Tong, she told the official who deals with Hong Kong's international affairs that her incoming administration would “play a new role as a facilitator and promoter”. “We will do more government-to-government work, and that would need the support of the foreign ministry and our country's consulates and embassies overseas,” Lam explained. She also met Hong Kong PLA commander Lieutenant General Tan Benhong, who runs a low-profile garrison tasked with matters related to the city's defence. ^ top ^

Charges against Occupy activists is bad timing, not persecution (SCMP)
The godfather of Hong Kong's civil disobedience, Benny Tai Yiu-ting, has denounced charges brought against him and eight other leaders or participants of the 2014 Occupy protest movement as persecution. Coming as they did a day after the election of Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor as the next chief executive, one has to admit the optics look very bad indeed. But most of the discussions yesterday, including Tai's persecution claims, conflated two very different issues. One has to do with the timing of the charges; the other with whether the charges are legally appropriate. Once we have decided that the charges are appropriate, there is no question of persecution. Of the charges, the three Occupy leaders – the Reverend Chu Yiu-ming and academics Benny Tai and Chan Kin-man – face three counts each of conspiracy to commit public nuisance, inciting others to commit public nuisance, and inciting people to incite others to commit public nuisance. Six others, including lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun, face one or both of the incitement charges. Bearing in mind that the three occupy leaders had already turned themselves in to the police more than a year ago, their being charged should not be a surprise, even if the timing was unpredictable. Tai even said yesterday that he would plead guilty if the facts of the case were in line with what had happened. Shiu has also said he takes responsibility for his actions during the Occupy protests. It's hard to claim political conspiracy or persecution when some of the key players themselves have admitted guilt or acknowledged responsibility. I respect Lai and Shiu's stance. Theirs is the real meaning of civil disobedience, so unlike that of many other Occupy protesters and Mong Kok rioters who have refused to take responsibility on the ground that their cause was just. That leaves us with the timing. It's possible, though highly unlikely, that Lam, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and government prosecutors conspired together to make sure the charges were laid only after her election. Or, maybe Lam was in the dark, as she claimed yesterday, but the others were in on it. If so, why not wait a bit longer? It's also possible, as the Department of Justice claimed yesterday, that the timing was purely coincidental. We will never know for sure. But we do know there is no persecution. ^ top ^

Newly elected Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam vows to unite sharply divided city (SCMP)
Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was elected as Hong Kong's first female leader on Sunday, promising to unite a divided city with a more inclusive style of governance and appealing for the chance to start a new chapter. The former No 2 official, who secured 777 out of the 1,186 votes cast by the Election Committee tasked to pick the next chief executive, also vowed to find ways to improve relations between the executive and the legislature. However, opposition politicians remained sceptical, given her non-committal response to their demands for universal suffrage. They also pointed out that she was picked by a small-circle electorate despite being eclipsed in the popularity stakes by John Tsang Chun-wah, who finished a distant secondwith 365 votes. The third candidate, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, managed only 21 votes. The State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said the election had been “open, fair and orderly”, and that Lam “fitted” Beijing's requirements for a chief executive. The office will now get started on procedures to formally appoint Lam. Beijing's liaison office said it expected Lam to implement the “one country, two systems” policy and the Basic Law “accurately”. While critics called the election result “a defeat of the people's majority views” and blamed it on Beijing's “interference” in lobbying support for Lam, the former chief secretary projected her win as the fruit of her own labour and that of her team. Popular underdog Tsang appeared gracious in defeat, hugging Lam on stage and later urging Hongkongers to accept the result and support the winner for the good of the city. “My priority will be to heal the divide and to ease the frustration – and to unite our society to move forward” Carrie Lam Delivering her victory speech in a conciliatory tone, Lam, 59, said she had realised her shortcomings and learned humility on the campaign trail. “Hong Kong, our home, is suffering from quite a serious divisiveness and has accumulated a lot of frustration,” she said. “My priority will be to heal the divide and to ease the frustration – and to unite our society to move forward.” To achieve that, Lam said, she would choose talent on merit rather than political affiliation, and form a platform to maintain regular communication with all parties in the legislature. However, regarding the pan-democrats' biggest demand – restarting the stalled electoral reform process with the goal of universal suffrage – Lam would only say she would start with “easier subjects that will not be severely affected by one's political affiliation”. She vowed to uphold the “one country, two systems”formula for Hong Kong and the city's core values such as inclusiveness, respect for human rights, rule of law and clean government. Lam promised to get moving on taking the city forward, starting with the policy proposals in her manifesto, such as ramping up spending on education, lowering the profits tax rate for smaller enterprises and boosting land supply for housing. The higher-than-expected vote tally reflected “unprecedented unity” among the pro-establishment camp under “the central government's full support”, said Lau Siu-kai, vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, a quasi-official think tank based in Beijing. Lau said the pro-Beijing camp, split between outgoing chief executive Leung Chun-ying and Henry Tang Ting-yen in the last election, had unified behind Lam this time. Leung won the 2012 election with 689 votes, earning the number as a derogatory nickname. In yesterday's election, only about 60 pro-Beijing votes are believed to have gone to Tsang, who had been promised 300 votes by the pan-democrats. It has been reported that Beijing officials lobbied Election Committee members – including Hong Kong's richest man, Li Ka-shing – to vote for Lam. Two of Tsang's nominators also made a last-minute U-turn on Saturday, with one of them, Ricky Chim Kim-lung, admitting he had been approached by the liaison office. Tsang himself denied any knowledge of Beijing's “interference” yesterday, while Lam would not concede that her success was a result of the central government's lobbying. Asked whether she would have the courage to stand up to Beijing on issues opposed by Hongkongers, Lam replied: “You have seen my guts. I will remain fearless on issues that are for the good of Hong Kong.” The new leader in waiting said she would visit the liaison office in the coming few days “as part of the protocol”, along with visits to other offices, including that of the incumbent chief executive. Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, now a state leader, said Lam would be able to lead Hong Kong out of its troubles. Ray Yep Kin-man, a public policy professor at City University, said Lam's victory was a “demonstration of democracy in Chinese style” and “a defeat of Hong Kong's majority view”. She should form a cabinet with credible figures to rebuild trust. ^ top ^



Mainland urges early release of fishermen detained by Taiwan (China Daily)
A Chinese mainland spokesperson Wednesday called on Taiwan to release several detained fishermen and their boat as soon as possible. Ma Xiaoguang, spokesperson with the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, made the remarks at a press conference in response to reports that Taiwan authorities had detained 20 mainland fishermen on "illegal trespass" charges in waters around Dongsha Islands. "The mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits immediately contacted relevant groups in Taiwan to acquire information, express concerns and conduct negotiations," Ma said. The spokesperson called on the Taiwan side to respect that fishermen from both sides of the Strait, including those from Hong Kong and Macao, had long been fishing in the area. "The Taiwan side should stop the improper treatment of the fishermen and protect their lives and property," Ma said. Ma also voiced opposition to acts that undermined the basis of cross-Strait talks and hindered development of cross-Straits ties. "To restrain cross-Straits exchanges with political means and put pressure on people in the island who are promoting such exchanges runs against the will of compatriots on both sides and will not be supported by the public," he said. Ma said that a ceremony next month would be held on the mainland to pay homage to Huangdi, a legendary ruler of the Chinese nation. More than 200 people from Taiwan, including Kuomintang Vice Chairman Chen Chen-hsiang and New Party Chairman Yok Mu-ming as well as grassroots people and young students from Taiwan, will attend. ^ top ^

Mainland China has detained Taiwanese rights activist, says wife (SCMP)
The wife of Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-che said on Tuesday that her husband had been detained by security authorities on the mainland. Lee, who has long supported human rights on the mainland, went missing after he entered Zhuhai, Guangdong province, from Macau on March 19, prompting concerns he might have been detained by mainland authorities. “I received words from the [Taiwanese] government late [Monday] night confirming that Lee Ming-che has been detained by the security agencies of the Chinese government,” his wife, Lee Ching-yu, said from Taipei. The Mainland Affairs Council in Taipei said on Tuesday night that the information about the detention was obtained “indirectly” and mainland authorities had yet to provide “any official information about the whereabouts of Lee.” It called on the mainland to state what has happened to Lee and ensure his safety. Lee Ching-yu said she was deeply worried her husband might not have enough money with him for food and medicine for his high blood pressure. She also called on mainland authorities to quickly inform her or publicise for what reasons or on what charges her husband was being detained. The 42-year-old former Democratic Progressive Party staffer, who works at Taipei's Wenshan Community College, had travelled to Guangdong to seek medical help for his seriously ill mother-in-law in Taiwan, his wife said. An author friend of his on the mainland had arranged to pick Lee up from the customs checkpoint on March 19, but failed to see him after waiting for four hours, according to Cheng Hsiu-chuan, the wife's spokeswomanand Wenshan Community College's president. Cheng said Lee's concerns about human rights conditions on the mainland and his sharing of Taiwan's democratic progress through his and other mainland websites could be a reason for him being detained. She said in addition to seeking help from the Taiwanese authorities, friends and family have also sought help from international human right organisations, including Amnesty International. Cheng said the Straits Exchange Foundation said it had tried two times in vain to get information or confirmation of any arrest from its mainland counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait. The foundation said it would try again on Tuesday, she said. Lee's case came just days after Feng Chongyi, a mainland-born professor based in Australia who has often criticised Beijing's crackdown on political dissent, has been barred from leaving the mainland and is being questioned by state security officers as a suspected threat to national security. ^ top ^

Visit to Taiwan by Japanese deputy minister draws criticism from Beijing (China Daily)
China said on Monday that the recent visit of a high-level Japanese official to Taiwan has caused a "serious disturbance" to the improvement of China-Japan relations. Beijing strongly objected, lodging "solemn representations" with the Japanese. Jiro Akama, deputy minister of Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, visited Taiwan on Saturday to attend a Japanese culture and tourism promotion event, according to Kyodo News Agency. The visit made him the most senior government official to visit the island since "diplomatic" ties were severed with Chinese Taipei in 1972. "China is resolutely opposed to the visit and has lodged solemn representations with Japan," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily news conference in Beijing. Hua said the Taiwan question is a major matter of principle that concerns the political foundation of China-Japan relations. "The visit of an incumbent Japanese deputy minister to Taiwan obviously went against Japan's promises to maintain only nongovernmental and local levels of exchange with Taiwan," she said. She also noted that while Japan said it respects its promises on the Taiwan question, it has been provocative in its practical actions, and "this has caused serious disturbance to the improvement of bilateral relations". "The Taiwan question concerns China's core interests and cannot be challenged," Hua said. "Japan should recognize its seriousness and stop being two-faced and not go further on the wrong path." Hua also asked the Japanese to face up to history and stop making trouble on territorial issues. According to recently updated Japanese high school textbooks, China's Diaoyu Islands are repeatedly labeled as Japanese territory. "No matter what the Japanese say or do, it cannot change the fact that the Diaoyu Islands belong to China," she said, adding that the Diaoyu and its associated islands are China's inherent territory, and China's resolution to safeguard territorial sovereignty is unshakable. "We ask the Japanese side to face up to history and reality, educate the younger generation with a right view on history, and stop making trouble," she added. ^ top ^



Moody's warns China faces heightened financial risks from property downturn (SCMP)
Moody's Investors Service warned on Wednesday that the financial risks facing China from a potential property downturn have grown as record lending has made banks more risk-prone while the government is less able to combat those risks. China extended a record 12.65 trillion Chinese yuan (US$1.84 trillion) of loans in 2016 to support economic growth, half of which was household loans – mostly mortgages – sending new home prices to five-year highs in the year. Policymakers now face the prospect of a nasty property market crash damaging the economy. More large cities on China's wealthy east coast – Fuzhou, Xiamen and Hangzhou – stepped up property curbs again this week, following Beijing's drastic moves that analysts say could freeze the market. Fuzhou, Xiamen and Hangzhou home prices rose 23.7 per cent, 36.5 per cent and 25.4 per cent year-on-year in February, according to statistics bureau data. Recent weeks have seen the biggest wave of tightening of home purchase and lending rules since October, as China's red-hot property market picked up pace in February after price gains had slowed in the previous months. “Previously, the banking sector's exposure to the property market was relatively modest,” said Lillian Li, a Moody's vice-president and senior analyst. “But the rising share of mortgages in new bank credit, the risk from property pledged as collateral on other loans, and the increasing role of shadow banks as providers of finance to the property sector have all raised the financial system's vulnerability to a property-related shock,” she said. While risks are rising, the scope of the Chinese authorities for mitigating such risks through fiscal and monetary policy has become more limited, as such moves may exacerbate other economic challenges such as capital outflows which have become increasingly pressing, Moody's said. It noted the central government's fiscal balance had “deteriorated” and government leverage at 36.7 per cent was no longer low. The rating agency expects China to increase its deficit to 3.3-3.5 per cent of GDP over the next few years. ^ top ^

Political advisors discuss improving e-commerce regulation (Xinhua)
China's political advisors on Thursday discussed ways to improve regulation of e-commerce during a bi-weekly consultation session. Members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee agreed that e-commerce has become an important engine of economic growth, and rapid development of e-commerce has greatly contributed to economic growth, employment and people's well-being. However, they added, some problems remain, including sale of counterfeit products, infringement of intellectual property rights, false advertising and security of personal information. Some political advisors have called for speeding up legislation, regulation and creation of standards for e-commerce, better integrating technology with regulation, as well as studying emerging and potential problems in e-commerce development. They suggested properly defining responsibilities of government agencies and e-commerce platforms, saying that the government should support and regulate the development of the platforms, while platforms should fulfill duties such as protecting consumers' personal information. Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the CPPCC National Committee, presided over the session.. ^ top ^



Kim Jong-nam's body to be sent to North Korea as Malaysians stuck in Pyongyang allowed to return home (SCMP)
The body of Kim Jong-nam will be sent to North Korea and nine Malaysians in Pyongyang will be allowed to leave, Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Thursday. North Korean citizens in Malaysia will also be allowed to return home, the statement said. Kim, 45, the half-brother of North Korea's leader, was poisoned at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 13 in a brazen cold war-style assassination using a lethal nerve agent banned by the UN as a weapon of mass destruction. “... following the completion of the autopsy on the deceased and receipt of a letter from his family requesting the remains be returned to North Korea, the coroner has approved the release of the body,” said Najib. Najib also announced that nine Malaysians barred from leaving North Korea after diplomatic ties worsened “have now been allowed to return to Malaysia”. “They took off from Pyongyang today at 7.45pm Malaysian time, and will land in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow around 5am,” he said in the statement which did not mention Kim Jong-nam by name, referring to him only as “the deceased”. “I had a deep personal concern about this matter, and we worked intensively behind the scenes to achieve this successful outcome. Many challenges were overcome to ensure the return of our fellow Malaysians. The safety and security of our citizens will always be my first priority,” he said. A joint statement by the North Korean government released simultaneously said both countries managed to “resolve issues arising from the death of a DPRK national” in Malaysia at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur. DPRK stands for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. “The importance of bilateral relations was reaffirmed. In this connection, both countries agreed to positively discuss the re-introduction of the visa-free system and work towards bringing the relations to a higher level,” read the statement from North Korea. South Korea has blamed Pyongyang for Kim's death, but the North has rejected those claims and has never confirmed the identity of the victim, who was carrying a passport bearing the name of Kim Chol when he was attacked. Pyongyang had denounced Malaysia's investigation as an attempt to smear the secretive regime, insisting that Kim most likely died of a heart attack. The killing triggered a bitter row between Malaysia and North Korea, which have expelled each other's ambassadors and barred their citizens from leaving. ^ top ^



Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi announces complete repayment of debt to CHALCO (Montsame)
The USD 350 million debt of Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi JSC owing to Aluminum Corporation of China Limited (CHALCO) was repaid completely. This enables the Mongolian government to reap the benefits of coal exploitation at the East and West Tsankhi deposits of Tavan Tolgoi mine as the coal mining revenues will be added to the government budget 100 percent, said D.Ariunbold, CEO of Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi JSC, on Thursday, March 30. “The Mongolian government had paid USD 240 million to CHALCO as of last October, and remained liable for USD 110 million more. Remnant of the debt was repaid within seven months. Thanks to wise management and government directions toward commencing exploitation in the West Tsankhi and open auction on coal, this became possible. Price for a ton of coal stood at USD 26.0 by September 2016.” At the open auction, Tavan Tolgoi's coal was sold at USD 72.5 per ton. A Mongolian project, jointly proposed by Mongol Uurkhaichin Negdel (Mongolian Miners Cooperative), also known as Khishig Arvin Company, and Olborlolt Mera LLC won the bid for operating the mine. This indicates that national companies have technological and educational capabilities of independently operating such a large-scale coal mine. With Mongolians operating the mine, around 200 billion Tugrugs of investment is staying in the Mongolian economy ”, he said. Erdenes TT expects to mine 11.5 million tons of coal and make revenue of USD 550 million. The company extracted 2.8 million tons and exported 2.2 million tons of coal so far in 2017. The Prime Minister has given an obligation to repay debts and distribute payables to the citizens for respective 1,072 shares of Erdenes TT. In case the coal price will be stable for a longer period, the distribution is deemed possible to be launched within this year. Also, Erdenes TT leaders intend to adopt adequate quality management to raise investment from international sources. ^ top ^

Head of Cabinet Secretariat meets World Bank delegates (Montsame)
On March 29, J.Munkhbat, Head of the Cabinet Secretariat of Mongolia and members of the Investor Rights' Protection Council of Mongolia received a delegation led by Roberto Echandi, Investment Policy Global Lead of the Investment Climate Unit of the Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice of the World Bank Group. Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice of the World Bank Group and the International Finance Corporation have decided to co-implement a project to support investment policy and agricultural investment in Mongolia. At the meeting, the dignitaries exchanged views on issues of cooperation between the International Finance Corporation and the Cabinet Secretariat of Mongolia within the framework of intensification of works of investors and capacity building in the future. Mr. Roberto Echandi said “The reputation of Mongolia among investors has been slowly reviving. During an Investors' meeting held in Canada, international economists said that policy pursued by the government of Mongolia is being carried-out successfully and its activities are stabilized in recent times. One of the biggest examples is the recently-established Investor Rights' Protection Council of the government of Mongolia”. He continued that I am glad to cooperate with Mongolia in this time when the country has a 'good' law regarding foreign investors. We will include Mongolia in specific into a report, which will be finally delivered to the European Union. J.Munkhbat said, in turn, that the government of Mongolia would like to revive investors' confidence in Mongolia and maintain mutually beneficial cooperation with the International Finance Corporation in the agricultural industry of Mongolia. He then pledged that the government will provide all possibilities to develop an action plan through an active operation of the relevant working group. "The government will pay attention to improve the working capacity of the Investor Rights' Protection Council" he added. ^ top ^

Speaker M.Enkhbold's continues visit to Japan (Montsame)
On the second day of his visit to Japan, Parliament Speaker M.Enkhbold met an honorary consul in Hokkaido Ts.Takebe, chairman of Japan-Mongolia friendship group in the House of Councillors in Japanese parliament M.Yamazaki and members of the group. Honorary counsul in Hokkaido Ts.Takebe said that he determined to focus on the development of bilateral economic relations. Mr. Takebe founded and chairs the Society to support economic relations of Mongolia and Institute of East Asia studies and organized a business forum last year. Mr. Ts.Takebe said that he plans to organize activities in regard to the development of agriculture and tourism as well as getting trainees from Mongolia. Speaker M.Enkhbold appreciated his contribution saying that involvement of Hokkaido in the Mid-term program of Strategic partnership was Mr. Takebe's efforts. “Hokkaido has a similar weather and nature to Mongolia. Therefore, sharing their good practice and experience in the agriculture industry and other fields are important to us”, he said. The Speaker also requested Mr. Takebe to pay attention on defining focus areas and Mongolian participation as well as possible contributions to the North East Asia through the Institute. In the framework of Parliamentary Speaker M.Enkhbold's visit, the Financial Regulatory Commission of Mongolia and the Financial Services Agency of Japan established a memorandum of understanding. The memorandum, signed by the chairs of the commission and agency S.Davaasuren and Nobuchika Mori, sets out to cooperate towards the development of stock market in Mongolia, strengthening capacity of insurance and non-banking financial institutes. Cooperation between the Financial Regulatory Commission of Mongolia and the Financial Services Agency of Japan started three years ago and the cooperation has been making big contribution to re-train specialists and strengthening personnel capacity of the commission, noted chairwoman of the commission S.Davaasuren. In the beginning of the meeting Chairman of Japan-Mongolia friendship group in the House of Councillors in Japanese parliament M.Yamazaki noted that the group cooperates closely with the Government of Mongolia and would strive to further develop the relations in wider scope. “We acknowledge big efforts of the Government and the Parliament of Mongolia to overcoming economic difficulties and making budgetary and financial reforms. It was an important step that Mongolia reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund to implement a joint program” said Mr. Yamazaki. Speaker M.Enkhbold underlined that Japanese Finance Ministry and specialists in IMF gave significant influence to reaching to preliminary agreement with IMF. “ 11 years ago, I visited Japan as a Prime Minister and on March 28, I put forward our proposal to PM J.Koizumi about building an international airport in the Khushig valley. Now the construction of the airport is coming to completion. Following this model, it is already time to realize new mutually efficient big projects and programs. I wish again, on March 28, there would be an opening ceremony of big project or factory that becomes symbol of friendly cooperation of the two countries”. ^ top ^

European Union works with Mongolia on strengthening political and economic links (Montsame)
From 27 to 31 March, European Union high-level officials will visit Mongolia to support its political and economic reform path. The meetings will take stock and develop further relations, as Mongolia is a valued partner for the EU. The visit is part of regular, long-established political dialogue/cooperation.
The 17th EU-Mongolia Joint Committee will meet on 31 March. It will be chaired by Foreign Minister of Mongolia Mr Tsend Munkh-Orgil and EU Managing Director for Asia-Pacific Mr Gunnar Wiegand. They will examine recent developments in EU-Mongolia relations, cooperation related to regional and global issues, the evolution of trade flows as well as the implementation of development assistance. The meeting will also consider measures that may contribute to the development and diversification of trade and economic cooperation.
The Joint Committee will be preceded by three different meetings on 30 March:
1. The first ever Human Rights Dialogue, part of the EU strategy to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The main purpose of the dialogue is to support Mongolia's adherence to its bilateral and international obligations in relation to human rights, rule of law and democratic principles. The Dialogue will help identify potential cooperation areas in the human rights field.
2. The Sub-committee on Trade and Investment, which discusses the diversification of Mongolian economy and the attraction of foreign investment among other issues.
3. The Working Group on Development Cooperation will review and discuss priorities and their implementation in the medium term.
From 27 to 29 March meetings take place to support implementation of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) under which Mongolian goods enter the EU market duty-free. In 2015, 20% of Mongolian goods exports, worth 16 million euro, entered the EU market duty-free under GSP+. Mongolia joined the GSP+ scheme in 2014. This scheme aims to help Mongolia implement human and labour rights, environmental protection and good governance conventions and in return grants full removal of tariffs on over 66% of tariff lines. The EU will engage with stakeholders, authorities, business, civil society, and international organisations, to assess developments in implementing the conventions. The EU will also inform stakeholders of the functioning and benefits of the GSP+ scheme and listen to any concerns or difficulties in its practical implementation. ^ top ^


Ms. Corinne Estermann
Embassy of Switzerland

The Press review is a random selection of political and social related news gathered from various media and news services located in the PRC, edited or translated by the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing and distributed among Swiss Government Offices. The Embassy does not accept responsibility for accuracy of quotes or truthfulness of content. Additionally the contents of the selected news mustn't correspond to the opinion of the Embassy.
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